Azipod® system – propelling ferries into a sustainable future

Azipod® system – propelling ferries into a sustainable future

Demand for Azipod® propulsion continues to grow in the global ferry industry, building on success from early installations and inspired by commitments from shipowners dedicated to moving passengers and vehicles in the greenest possible way on the water.

Responsible for moving around 2.1 billion passengers, 250 million vehicles and 32 million trailers every year, ferry owners worldwide are increasingly choosing Azipod® electric propulsion systems. Performance provided by 360-degree rotating podded propulsors, high reliability and reduced fuel consumption are all key factors behind the move. Additionally, lower vibration and the flexibility of design allowed by locating propulsion motors outside, rather than inside the hull, prove compelling for ferry shipowners.

“Like cruise, the ferry segment is making the transition from mechanical to electric systems, including drives and propulsion, and shipping companies are now seeing the advantages of podded electric propulsion,” says Marcus Högblom, Head of Passenger Vessel Segment in ABB Marine & Ports.

Yantai Dalian Ferry
Yantai Dalian Ferry

A recent independent study revealed that Azipod® propulsion for ferries could save nearly two million dollars in annual fuel costs per vessel. Lower fuel consumption would also mean reducing CO2 emissions by around 10,000 tons per ship per year, equivalent to the amount of CO2 emitted by about 2,200 passenger cars annually.

Early success in Asia
One of the first contracts for Azipod® propulsion was for a contra-rotating propeller system on the Shin Nihonkai Ferry’s vessels Akashia and Hamanasu, operating in Japan. After several months of operation, Shin Nihonkai Ferry reported that the new ferries equipped with Azipod® propulsion consumed 20 percent less fuel than the older ferries in the fleet.

The next ferries equipped with Azipod® propulsion were passenger and car vessels operated by Boihai Train Ferry Co. in China. After 12 years of operation, Azipod® propulsion had saved the company over 18,000 tons of fuel. “At that time, ABB’s Azipod® propulsion was frequently specified for large cruise ships, as operators recognized their additional maneuverability and fuel saving benefits, while our smaller units were dominant in offshore,” said Alf Kåre Ådnanes, AMEA Regional Division Manager, ABB Marine & Ports. “The management at what would later become the Sinorail Bohai Train Ferry Co. Ltd. were incredibly forward-looking in their decision to adopt a different technology for their new vessels.”

Proving the difference

More recently, ABB has contracted to deliver an Azipod® propulsion system for the new Viking Line ferry Viking Glory. Speaking about this vessel, Jan Hanses, President and CEO, Viking Line, said that Viking Line’s expectations were that she would be the most efficient cruise ferry operating in the Baltic, if not the world.

Azipod® propulsion simplifies hull construction, which lower the water resistance by eight percent
Azipod® propulsion simplifies hull construction, which lower the water resistance by eight percent

Viking Line’s decision to opt for the Azipod® system came after ABB equipped a virtual model of Viking Glory with Azipod® propulsion and invited the captain perform the run on a simulator, comparing it with a conventionally powered ferry. The captain consistently achieved 30 minutes time savings due to increased maneuverability in port. This allowed for lower speed in open water, thus reducing fuel consumption on the run.

“Environmental responsibility and passenger experience are two cornerstones of our work, and Viking Glory will reflect those principles more than any Viking ship before it. This is, in no small part, down to the Azipod® system, which will be the driving force behind Viking Glory’s unmatched efficiency and sustainability,” said Kari Granberg, Newbuild Project Manager, Viking Line.

Connecting Europe

P&O Ferries is currently building two new vessels at Guangzhou Shipyard International Ltd, with ABB supplying electric, digital and connected solutions including Azipod® propulsion, promising to reduce fuel consumption on the Dover-Calais route by 40 percent, or one ton of fuel on each round-trip journey. “We are proud to have ABB technology at the heart of P&O Ferries’ sustainability program, as it transitions to zero-emission future envisaged for shipping,” said Juha Koskela, Division President, ABB Marine & Ports.

P&O Ferries' new vessels will be equipped with four Azipod® units each
P&O Ferries' new vessels will be equipped with four Azipod® units each

Equipped with four Azipod® propulsion units per vessel, the 230 meter-long ships will be the largest passenger and freight ferries ever to sail the route when they enter service in 2023. Built to double-ended design, the vessels will feature two Azipod® units and a bridge at each end, eliminating the need to turn ships in port. The captain and senior officers will simply walk to the opposite bridge, saving seven minutes on each leg of the journey and one ton of fuel – a sixth of what is used on the 21-mile crossing.

Tackling an icy environment

Wasaline underscored the growing preference for Azipod® electric propulsion with its 2019 newbuild order for what is being called one of the world’s most environmentally friendly passenger ferries, sailing a route prone to ice cover in the winter months. “We chose ABB’s Azipod® electric propulsion for several reasons,” said Peter Ståhlberg, Wasaline CEO. “Superior maneuverability will save time and increase productivity, enabling precise schedules to be maintained on this route. We calculated likely annual time savings of close to four days of operation, which was compelling. The solution also saves valuable space on board and simplifies hull construction.”

The future of ferries

“Azipod® propulsion allows ship designers to save both space and weight, while reaping the benefits of superior operational performance,” Högblom concludes. “For these reasons and more, Azipod® propulsion is emerging as the most efficient solution for the future of ferries.”


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